Our partners at ELSA Cluj-Napoca held their now annual National Moot Court Competition on Criminal Law, which took place between April 23 and 24 at the Cluj Court of Appeal. It was a highly expected event that brought together 12 teams of students from different cities all around the country, such as Craiova, Timișoara, Sibiu, Bucharest and last but not least, their own Cluj-Napoca.
The jury was formed of three different specialities of law. Judge Mihai Ghica, in his first appearance at this event, said after the first few rounds: ‘I was really impressed to see that all of them came really prepared, although there were some slight differences, but in the end that is the nature of a competition. Overall, I got a really good impression after these first few rounds’. The other two are well-known among law students in Cluj-Napoca, both teaching at Babeș-Bolyai University, Faculty of Law. The first one of them is prosecutor Rareș Ciaușu who works at DIICOT (Directorate for Investigating Organised Crime and Terrorism) and the other being lawyer Sergiu Bogdan who is the founding partner of the law firm, ‘Sergiu Bogdan & Asociații’. Sergiu Bogdan and Rareș Ciaușu are not in this state for the first time, both being part of the jury last year as well.
Mr. Sergiu Bogdan was also the main sponsor of this event, being the only financial sponsor and the one that wrote the cases with which the teams had to work both for qualification, but also in the final. About coming back next year, Sergiu Bogdan had this to say: ‘We always said that if this were to be a successful event, which it is, we would make room in our budget every year. In other words, for us this is a long-term project. This is just the start of a long and fruitful collaboration which will definitely take place next year as well.’
The qualification and sorting process was a long and difficult one. There were 60+ teams that were interested in the event and 30 that actually sent their written pleas, with Sergiu Bogdan saying that ‘it was a very nice surprise to see that there were 60 something teams that were interested in this event and from those 60, 30 to actually write something and research their info. That is a beautiful sight to see.’ So it was understandable to see that for the first time, there were so many teams, 12, both the organisational team and Mr. Bogdan having a lot of work sorting them out.
The format of the competition was a bit changed from the usual Moot Court Competitions. The organisers went with a 20 minutes plea from the plaintiffs, followed by another 20 minutes plea from the defendants. Afterwards, those were followed by a 10 minutes response from the plaintiffs and another 10 minutes response from the defendants. All this time, the jury could ask questions and enquire further about the case to quiz the contestants. The first day, the proceedings began at 9:30 with an opening speech from Mr. Bogdan with the actual debates starting not long after. The organisational team made sure that after every round there was a 10-minutes coffee break for the contestants, jury and for the public who attended. After three rounds, the jury and the contestants took a lunch-break where we managed to ask the jury a few questions.
Mr. Ciaușu was very impressed about how the pleas did so far in comparison to the ones in the past years. ‘I believe that the interest in the contest has risen and so did the pleas, which is a good thing. And I expect for them to keep on rising, both the interest and the quality of it’. In comparison with the actual pleas in the courtrooms, all three of them highly praised the ones heard so far in the contest, Mr. Ghica saying that ‘Their pleas are better overall than the average ones we hear day by day. But we must understand that a lawyer who is pleading in front of a jury has more than one case, sometimes even ten or more in a five-day spawn. All in all, the level at which the pleas were at was a very-high one’.
About the contestants, Mr. Ciaușu had to say only inspiring things, him having great memories about the past editions. ‘Every one of them wants to be prepared for what is coming in the future years. Those being the ones that want a career in the juridical system, which requires an active participation in courtroom, not so much being able to write documents. A good and handy exercise for any law student I would say’.
Asking them if they believe that this kind of events are beneficial only for the students, and not for them, they all strongly affirmed that they also have gains from it. Mr. Bogdan liked to emphasise on the fact that in this branch it is very easy to get stuck in old conceptions, but it is good to hear new ones, in order to keep up. ‘Certainly it helps us too. Because sometimes you already have a well stuck perception about a thing, that being how reasoning works, but you sometimes hear new points of view and fresh opinions which raise questions and makes you wonder. That is because they make these assumptions from nothing and start their pleas from scratch. Without a doubt it is beneficial for us too, that is why with great pleasure I always make time for this event’.
After coming from the lunch-break, another three debates were held until around 19:00. Afterwards, the jury went back to deliberate and came back with the results about 15 minutes later. The teams that were to reach the Sunday final were composed of Nicolae Irina & Marian Ariadna from Bucharest, the plaintiffs and Dudaș Celia & Matache Alexandru from Cluj-Napoca, the defendants.
After all was done for the day, the organisational team made sure the other contestants were in for a treat as ELSA Cluj-Napoca held the annual ‘Balul Juriștilor’, a galla in which the best members were rewarded for their activity. That gave the contestants a chance to have fun and relax after a hard and long day.
The next day, the proceedings began as early as 10:00. The contestants were eager to begin and so was the jury. The courtroom was filled with both family and friends of the teams, but also with neutral public that came only for the beauty of it. The final debate lasted nearly two hours, almost one hour over the program because the arguments were so intense and well-constructed. The jury and the last four had a very intriguing discussion on the case, but in the end there had to be only two.
After almost two hours, the jury retreated in the chambers to deliberate. They came back after a while, holding a list with the winners. Mr. Bogdan, the main sponsor and member of the jury had to say that every contestant deserved to be there and this competition showed that they are the best 12 teams in the country. They also needed to mention that the decision was really hard to make, given the absolute incredible performance from all of them.
The winners were Dudaș Celia and Matache Alexandru from Cluj-Napoca, with Nicolae Irina and Marian Ariadna from Bucharest coming just short, in the second place. The judges also gave out a third place for the teams that played in the first day. The pair that won the third place was formed of Szanto-Petria Bianca and Sîntimbrean Roxana from Cluj-Napoca. They each were awarded prizes in money, but the jury had to congratulate Lucaciu Diana as well, who took home the ‘Best Advocate’ prize, given exclusively by Judge Mihai Ghica.
The National Moot Court Competition on Criminal Law ‘Traian Pop’ came to a conclusion. Every party had only good things to say about it, the jury being very pleased by how it turned out, every one of them saying that they will return next year if they were asked to, Mr. Ghica saying ‘Yes, definitely. While my participation would be beneficial for both parts, why not?’.
Daiana Avășan, the coordinator of this event, was very excited about how the contest turned out. ‘From my point of view, the event was very successful, the great feedback we received from the jury, the contestants and even the public standing as proof for that. If we are talking about the next year’s edition, I believe we should reconsider the structure of it, given that on Saturday there were six debates, each of one hour. That was really tiring for the jury, as well for the contestants and even the attendance. The idea of debates being held at the same time is something we are looking into for next year.’
This article was originally published in issue 4.2 of the magazine, which can be accessed here.